Q&A: 2020 taxes bring another stimulus shot

Dear Liz: My 2019 tax return was electronically submitted May 11 and my income was low enough to qualify for a stimulus payment. I got my refund at the end of July but was told I wouldn’t get a stimulus check because my 2018 income was too high. The IRS agent on the phone said I could request the money when I filed my 2020 taxes. But isn’t that past the deadline? The agent sounded like he was just trying to get me off the phone.

Answer: He probably was, but he gave you the correct information. The IRS used the tax returns it had on hand this spring when it started sending out stimulus payments. Since your 2019 return hadn’t been filed, it used your 2018 income to determine how much, if anything, to send you.

People who didn’t get checks or got too little aren’t out of luck. The stimulus checks were an advance payment of a credit that will be added to people’s 2020 tax returns. If you should have received a check but didn’t, you’ll get the full credit added to your refund next year.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Federal loans are paused until 2021 – should you pay anyway? Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on pet costs and extreme couponing, what to know about the coronavirus charges on your college bill, and the tough choices renters are facing.

Federal Loans Are Paused Until 2021 — Should You Pay Anyway?
Federal student loan payments are suspended interest-free through the end of 2020.

Smart Money Podcast: Pet Costs and Extreme Couponing
The costs of our furry friends.

What to Know About Coronavirus Charges on Your College Bill
Some colleges are charging for testing.

Renters must make some tough choices in the coming weeks: What to do if you’re at risk
Ways to fight evection.

Q&A: Taking out a reverse mortgage may help if coronavirus wipes out your job

Dear Liz: I read with interest the letter from the person who was a tour guide and lost their job due to the virus. I kept reading, expecting you to suggest a reverse mortgage. Are these a bad idea?

Answer: Not necessarily. The person in question owned the home with a sibling, and the sibling did not live in the home, which could complicate the process of getting a reverse mortgage.

If there was substantial equity in the home, however, a reverse mortgage could pay off the existing mortgage and might be worth the effort. One way to investigate this option is to talk to a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

Q&A: What to do when coronavirus brings job loss, debt and a housing dilemma

Dear Liz: I was employed as a tour guide for seniors but because of COVID-19, all our trips are canceled. I depended on the income because I have no other, besides Social Security, which I started at age 62. I now have credit card debt. I also needed a new car (mine was 24 years old and dying) so I’m leasing a car. The lease is up early next year and I would love to keep the car, if possible. My question is what to do with my home, where I have lived for more than 65 years. It was our parents’ home and now it’s owned equally with my brother, although because I live here, I pay everything: mortgage, taxes, insurance and so on. Should I sell my house and get an apartment? Rent it out? Get a roommate? Getting a roommate would not be my first choice, but I really want to stay in my home that I love so much.

Answer: If getting a roommate would give you enough income, then that may be the best solution — particularly since staying in your home is a top priority. Ideally, the rent you could charge would be enough to allow you to make ends meet, pay off your debt and save to buy your car.

If you’d still be running a deficit, however, then consider other solutions. If you can’t rent the home for enough to keep your head above water, then you probably should consider a sale.

One option, if your brother is amenable, is to sell some or all of your equity to him with the understanding that you could remain in the home. Make sure to get a written agreement; a lawyer could help with this. If your brother is not willing or able to buy your equity, you may have to put the house up for sale.

These are difficult changes, but your job isn’t likely to come back anytime soon. Finding a new gig, at your age and in this economy, may not be possible. Selling the house could free up some money for the future and allow you to reduce expenses rather than going deeper into debt.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Ask a points nerd: Why won’t the FAA require masks? Also in the news: How to get started if you’ve never had a bank account, Virgin Atlantic files for bankruptcy in the US, and it’s time for a mid-year tax withholding checkup.

Ask a Points Nerd: Why Won’t the FAA Require Masks?
We need more federal regulation when it comes to passengers’ air safety.

How to get started if you’ve never had a bank account
Welcome to the world of banking.

Virgin Atlantic Files for Bankruptcy in the US
What that means for your miles.

It’s Time for a Mid-Year Tax Withholding Checkup
Spare yourself from end-of-the-year surprises.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why student loan borrowers shouldn’t wait on Congress for more relief. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on safe travel and handling old debts, how to make sure a contract tracer isn’t a scammer, and what to do if your health insurance drops your monthly prescription.

Smart Money Podcast: How to Travel Safely, and How to Handle Old Debts
Traveling take caution.

Student Loan Borrowers: Don’t Wait on Congress for More Relief
Don’t hold your breath.

How to make sure a contract tracer isn’t a scammer
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/you-get-a-call-that-youve-been-exposed-to-coronavirus-how-to-make-sure-a-contract-tracer-isnt-a-scammer-2020-08-03
Here’s what to look for, and what a legitimate contract tracer will never ask you

What to Do if Your Health Insurance Drops Your Monthly Prescription
Looking at your options.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Smart money moves when cash is tighter than time. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on losing your health insurance and setting financial goals, how a gap year might haunt you financially, and how to boost your credit score with on-time Netflix payments.

Smart Money Moves When Cash Is Tighter Than Time
A lot of extra time on our hands, but not extra cash.

Smart Money Podcast: Losing Your Health Insurance, and Setting Financial Goals
Putting your health first.

How a Gap Year Might Haunt You Financially
It could cost you up to $90K in the long run.

Boost Your Credit Score With On-Time Netflix Payments
Your binge watching could boost your credit score.

Q&A: Coronavirus stimulus checks, tax refunds and the IRS’ backlog hell

Dear Liz: I’m a CPA. I sent out your recent column about IRS backlogs to two clients just this morning. It’s nice to have a published article backing up what I’ve unfortunately been having to tell clients for a few weeks now.

Answer: Pandemic-related shutdowns, years of congressional budget cuts and the effort required to push out more than 159 million stimulus checks have left the IRS facing a massive backlog. National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins estimated that 4.7 million unopened paper tax returns had accumulated as of mid-May. Taxpayers who filed paper returns and are due a refund may be in for “a long wait,” Collins told Congress last month. Many lower-income people and those who lost jobs are in dire need of the money, but it is unclear when they will get it.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why missing college this fall is a bad idea. Also in the news: Why you should get your finances in top shape now to refi your student loans, choosing the Medigap plan that’s right for you, and how to apply for a $1,000 grant if you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker.

Why Missing College This Fall Is a Bad Idea
You could be wasting time and money.

Get your finances in top shape now to refi your student loans
Get the best deal possible when the grace period ends.

‘Medigap’ insurance covers some Medicare costs. How to choose a plan that’s right for you
Covering some of your Medicare costs.

How to Apply for a $1,000 Grant if You’re a Freelancer or Gig Economy Worker
Apply for an EIDL.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: People with COVID-19 payment accommodations are finding mistakes in their credit files. Also in the news: 6 tips to teach your kids lifelong money lessons during the pandemic, Americans lost $77 million to Covid-19 fraud, and what to do if you can’t pay your taxes next week.

People with COVID-19 payment accommodations are finding mistakes in their credit files
One mistake could lower your credit score by nearly one hundred points.

Use these 6 tips to teach your kids lifelong money lessons during the pandemic
A unique opportunity.

Americans lost $77 million to Covid-19 fraud — and that’s just the ‘tip of the iceberg’
Scammers never rest.

What to do if you can’t pay your taxes next week
You have a few options.